One word to describe the road biking in the Laurel Highlands — sensational! Especially if you like climbing. The hills are tough and rewarding, the routes are beautiful and there’s not much traffic. But ride with care — local roads have narrow shoulders and traffic isn’t accustomed to bikers on the roads. Experienced cyclists will thrive here.
The town of Ohiopyle sits in the bottom of the Youghiogheny River valley, so you’ll be going uphill from the start. The best plan is to hop on the Great Allegheny Passage for a quick out-and-back spin to warm up before your ride.
Let’s talk about the hardest climb first, “Kentuck.” Head south out of town, cross the Meadow Run bridge and turn right. You’ll cross over Cucumber Run, and then the hurt begins. The climb is short but steep. In 0.75 miles, you’ll gain about 600 feet. Once on top, there’s a relatively friendly loop if you continue south on the Chalkhill-Ohiopyle road for 5 miles, then turn left on Nelson road and then head back towards Ohiopyle.
A local favorite is a ride over Sugarloaf Mountain to Confluence and back. You start with a lung-busting, 5-mile climb that gains about 1700 feet. Plan for 35 to 45 minutes to reach the top. It’s a good climb with great scenery and not much traffic (except for Saturday in the summer), but road edges are a little beat. Check out mapmyride.com or Strava.com for more rides in the area, and don’t forget to scope out rides in Confluence, Somerset and Farmington.
The Great Allegheny Passage is an beautiful alternative to the roads — especially if you don’t want to climb. The crushed limestone rail-trail travels through Ohiopyle State Park and is a beautiful ride. The 2% grade allows you to enjoy the scenery without breathing too hard!